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(I finished this on the plane on the way to Sirens.)



Reading Archivist Wasp is like navigating an intense, harrowing nightmare in the company of a true friend. Wasp, the young heroine, is the true friend, though she doesn’t know it. Her role—as recorder of ghosts and their ways, and (more importantly for her town) an executioner of them—means she’s a friendless outcast. She achieved her position by killing the last archivist, and three times a year, other young girls try to do the same to her. Her life has made her suspicious and untrusting, but from the very first, she shows gruff compassion for the ghosts and humans she encounters. Her compassion (and her curiosity, and, okay, a bit of self interest) lead her to agree to help a ghost supersoldier who does something no other ghost she or any of her predecessors have ever met could do: talk. He wants to find his comrade in arms, also a ghost. So Wasp embarks on a journey to the underworld.

The rest of the book unfolds Wasp’s own past and the past of her ghost companion and his friend, in a mutable landscape, pursued by terrors from Wasp’s life in the land of the living. As they search for the ghost’s friend, they themselves become friends—Wasp’s first experience of friendship. The pacing is perfect, and one scene in particular, where the ghosts whom Wasp has spared over the years come to her aid, was especially moving. The language throughout is sharp, powerful, beautiful:

And maybe that’s all a ghost is, in the end. Regret, grown legs, gone walking.

There’s a sequel in the works. I’m very curious to see where Nicole takes us next.

ETA PS (two) First, this review in School Library Journal expresses in more depth many of the things I would have liked to say if I hadn't written this so late at night, and second, there might be spoilers in comments (because I like to talk about things I read), so take that into account as you read here...


Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
yamamanama
Oct. 15th, 2015 01:59 am (UTC)
I've wanted to read things by her ever since I read a description of Desideria.
asakiyume
Oct. 15th, 2015 02:00 am (UTC)
She is *excellent*
cucumberseed
Oct. 15th, 2015 02:00 am (UTC)
I love this book in a fierce and frightening sort of way.
asakiyume
Oct. 15th, 2015 11:54 am (UTC)
It's a powerful, imprinting sort of story. Really wonderful and unusual.
nipernaadiagain
Oct. 15th, 2015 04:02 am (UTC)
I cannot decide should I hope this would be a worldwide hit or not - as I have becoming used to people thinking an archivist is just a synonym for architect, but I wonder what would people believe real life archivists to be after reading this one?
asakiyume
Oct. 15th, 2015 11:56 am (UTC)
I like that Wasp highlights the disjunction between what she does and what an actual archivist in eras past would have done. I think actually it might help people get back to the notion of an actual archivist--or might at least make them want to find out.
sovay
Oct. 15th, 2015 04:36 am (UTC)
The rest of the book unfolds Wasp’s own past and the past of her ghost companion and his friend, in a mutable landscape, pursued by terrors from Wasp’s life in the land of the living.

I read this book in one sitting in the Boston Public Library (my own copy, I'd brought it with me, I just happened to be in the library when I opened it) and I loved it very much.
asakiyume
Oct. 15th, 2015 12:02 pm (UTC)
I see entirely how this book would speak to you, and many of the things I imagine you loving are what I love too.

Most of all, I just really loved Wasp.
athenais
Oct. 15th, 2015 05:53 am (UTC)
Hurray, someone I know read it. I really liked it a lot, it kept surprising me. The end surprised me, but not in as happy a way. I can't imagine what the sequel might be like.
asakiyume
Oct. 15th, 2015 12:05 pm (UTC)
It kept surprising me, too, from the very beginning with what happened to Aneko--which of course ends up being key to the story (being a thing that Wasp and the ghost share: "You tried your best but you were wrong"), but hadn't been what I thought would happen.
sartorias
Oct. 15th, 2015 09:24 am (UTC)
Sounds intriguing!
asakiyume
Oct. 15th, 2015 11:52 am (UTC)
I know you're not big on grim stories, but although this one has grim elements, the emotional arc is upward: Wasp has been alone, and with the coming of the ghost, she's not anymore. And the ghost's relationship with Foster, the friend he's trying to find, is a model of what friendship can mean. And I loved Wasp--she's snarly and mistrustful and at the same time naturally empathetic, even if she can't always express it. This review in School Library Journal does a better job than I have.
sartorias
Oct. 15th, 2015 12:10 pm (UTC)
Sounds even better!
heliopausa
Oct. 15th, 2015 11:00 am (UTC)
I like the title, though at first it took me straight to paper wasps.
asakiyume
Oct. 15th, 2015 11:54 am (UTC)
Speaking of paper wasps, there's an interesting science fiction story from several years ago called "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" which I thought was interesting in conception, and pretty good in execution too, though I think I liked the beginning and middle more than the end (it's been a while since I read it).
heliopausa
Oct. 15th, 2015 12:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the story-link. I loved the thought of the maps. :) The politics was perhaps intended as a reply of sorts (a pessimistic sort!) to Kipling's determinedly anti-anarchist bee-and-wasp story, "The Mother-Hive".
asakiyume
Oct. 15th, 2015 01:38 pm (UTC)
Wow! Thank you for that: I had never read it! It makes me realize that Laline Paul's The Bees is less original than I'd thought.

What's interesting for me in the contrast between the Kipling story and Yu's story is how such very different politics can use the same--or similar--vehicles.
heliopausa
Oct. 15th, 2015 02:52 pm (UTC)
and in turn - I hadn't come across The Bees! :)

Yes, the good old adaptable bees have been used to many and varied political ends. :)
thewronghands
Oct. 22nd, 2015 06:21 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it reminded me of catvalente and her thing about maps. ("Palimpsest" remains one of my favorite books of all time for that reason.)
asakiyume
Oct. 22nd, 2015 09:47 pm (UTC)
(I remember that book had an amazing book trailer. I haven't actually read it, but it sounded neat.)
thewronghands
Oct. 22nd, 2015 06:17 pm (UTC)
"Archivist Wasp" popped up on my radar in a couple of places... I was hesitant because it sounded like it might be a bit much for me in the horror department (I can do action grimdark but I'm a horror lightweight; I do not want to read about rape or torture or serial killers), but it sounds really well written. Thanks for the review!
asakiyume
Oct. 22nd, 2015 09:47 pm (UTC)
It's a pretty sere, stark story, and it starts out with a grim happening, but it's definitely hopeful--it's an overcoming-the-badness, not a succumbing-to-the-badness story.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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